Wellness Wednesday

October 30, 2019

Recognizing Burnout and What to do About It

What would you say about a house where the circuit breaker keeps tripping, you often smell something burnt with no identifiable source, and the outlets are discolored? I’m sure you’d think these might be signs of a hazardous condition. You know that faulty wiring can make a house catch fire and you don’t want that.

Well, the same goes for your body. When life gets way too busy, and you’re under constant stress, your body will send you some signs that it needs rewiring.

Look through this list. Do any of these signs hit home? I've included some simple solutions that you can implement right away.

1. Short Fuse

If you find yourself talking angrily at your phone or cursing your computer because it's not working properly, you can be sure that your stress levels are overflowing. Being stressed out will make you snap at people, criticize, or complain all the time. And while the source of your stress may go away quickly, its effects on your relationships may be very damaging.

What to Do:

  • Be quiet. Embrace silence. If necessary tell people around you that you don't want to talk for a while. You might need to take yourself out of a situation. When emotions are boiling up, get out. Take a trip to the bathroom, go outside, just leave for a moment. It's better to lose 3 minutes on a break than get lost in an argument.
  • Be aware that stress makes you sensitive. Little things will bother you more than they should. If you feel irritated, avoid fixing things. They're not as important as you think at that moment.
  • Writing can be a great therapy for stress. A stress journal can be an effective way to put things in perspective and deal with the sources of your stress. It’ll certainly blow off some steam and it is fun and entertaining as well.
  • Adopt “alone time.” If you can, get some time alone to put the source of your stress into perspective. Jot down 5 affirmations about what is stressing you out. If impatience is spilling out to people around you, write affirmations about those people – their qualities, what they have and don’t have to do with that problem.

2. Negative Expectations, Negative Thoughts

Do you remember Murphy’s Law? "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” When you are stressed out an overstretched version of Murphy's Law sets camp in your mind and keeps saying: “everything will go wrong.”

Pay attention to your thoughts and expectations on a busy day. If they’re mostly on the negative side, stress is skewing your vision of things.

What to Do:

  • When you’re stressed, take notes of your thoughts. Most likely they’ll be playing negative ideas about yourself, the things you do, circumstances and people around you. Don’t believe them. Negative ideas are just ideas, not reality. Shoot evidence-based facts at them, they’ll vanish and your mood will eventually change. Writing this exercise down can help even more.
  • If things do go wrong, adopt the “What if …?” mode. It opens your mind to possibilities to overcome the problem, rather than the problem itself. Remember, problems are opportunities for breakthroughs.

3. Unrealistic Goals, Unrealistic Schedule

Make no mistake. When you take up too much, you’ll end up overwhelmed. If your to-do list for the day fills up a whole page and you feel defeated, your schedule is spelling out loud: u-n-r-e-a-l-i-s-t-i-c.

What to Do:

  • Don’t set more than 3 goals a day and if these goals result in more than 10 items in your to-do list, spread some of these things onto separate days right from the beginning. This way your expectations will be aligned with reality, and you won’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself.
  • Adopt an “in-progress” rather than a “finish” mentality. Write the word “start” for some of the things you have to do today. This will remind you that you don’t have to start and finish things the same day. You’re laying bricks, not building whole-houses each day.
  • Filter the things you plan to do, to make sure they should be on your list for the day: Is it time to do that? Why should I do that? Am I the right person for this? Can I delegate? Can I automate? Is it worth to do this? How can I make this easier?

4. Sleep Problems

You can’t outdo nature. Your brain needs 7-9 hours of sleep to restore your mind and repair processes in the body. When you go over stressed and overworked for too long, your system gets out of whack, resulting in insomnia, fatigue, and drowsiness.

What to Do:

  • Avoid screen time at night. Research indicates that the blue-light on cellphone and computer screens affects the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes your body know when it's time to sleep and wake up.
  • Have an evening routine where the lights are dim, your environment is calm (some soothing music is great), and your last meal is at least 3 hours before bed.
  • Slow down. Don’t engage in anything that makes your brain very active before going to bed.

5. Constant Overwhelming Feeling. Feeling Frozen.

Do you feel constantly anxious and overwhelmed? Being overtaxed will make you feel stuck, not knowing how to move ahead.

What to Do:

  • You see, big things are a sum of small ones. Break down the big things. Work on its small pieces. No one eats watermelons in one bite. As you work with smaller pieces, at the end of the day that big watermelon is gone. Your sense of accomplishment soars. You see yourself moving ahead.
  • Identify the fears behind your anxiety. Many times the monkey in your head is saying: “You’re not good enough for this” or “You can’t do this. Who are you?” Shut that monkey up! You are good enough!!
  • Celebrate your wins by cultivating gratitude. Start and end your day appreciating those beautiful things about yourself, what you accomplished (no matter how small… or big) and tokens of blessings along your day.

Get into action! Select 3 ideas and apply them right away. As you see your stress levels decreasing you’ll be able to make a few more changes until you move yourself away from that cliff of burnout. Don’t wait! Taking action now is much easier than you think and the rewards are awesome. You can do it!

Let us know how you beat burnout by commenting on our Twitter page.

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If all else fails...just breathe!!

Breathing Meditation | UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center